Napa, Vintage successfully invade Big House

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Napa’s big boys (in size and numbers) put a hurt on Casa Grande’s Vine Valley Athletic League title hopes last week, sweeping the Gauchos in their home gym.

Casa Grande gave Napa’s league-unbeaten Grizzlies a good battle before yielding, 66-59, in a mid-week game.

Vintage followed on Friday night winning a wild, but ultimately Casa-disappointing thriller, 71-69.

Long last minute

Friday night’s battle came down to a final minute that seemed more like a final hour.

Vintage took the lead for the last time in a teeter-totter fourth quarter on a basket-and-one inside shot by Grant Polk with 1:05 left.

Then things got interesting, if not productive.

Casa’s bench catalyst, Rashad Nixon, was sandwiched between two Crushers and bounced on the gym floor. There was no call made with 1:05 left.

Vintage’s Anthony Rendon was slapped on the arm with 11.9 seconds remaining and awarded two free throws. He made one to make the score 71-69.

There was a scramble for a loose ball under the Vintage basket, and the Crusher who came up with the ball while prone on the floor was whistled for traveling without a passport.

In ball possession with 1.2 seconds on the clock, Gauchos’ coach Jake Lee asked for a time out. Before play could resume, Vintage coach Rob Johnson made the same request. Trying to in-bounds at mid-court, Casa’s Kevin Cadle could not find an open teammate and he, too, signaled for a time out.

All the while, a large contingent of Casa Grande fans was screaming itself into mass hysteria.

Then, in a heartbeat, it was over.

Cadle tossed to the only open Gaucho — Scott Nave. His off-balance 3-pointer bounced short off the rim, and the Crushers celebrated while the Gauchos contemplated what might have been.

The frantic finish overshadowed a well-played game that bounced back-and-forth from tip to buzzer.

The ultimate difference was Casa Grande’s inability to keep the ball out of the hands of Vintage’s 6-foot, 5-inch center Polk, and their inability to keep him away from the basket. The big man finished with 32 points.

Casa tried everything but handcuffs to stop Polk, eventually going to a zone defense in an effort to keep the ball out of his hands.

“We had to try something different,” observed Lee.

Polk was helped by Rendon and David Brown, who combined for seven treys, most coming as the Gauchos were threatening to go on a game-changing run.

Garrett Siebels, with help from a lot of his friends, kept the Gauchos in the game until the end. Hitting from close, medium and far distances, he finished with 29 points.

Scoring help came from 10 of his teammates, with Nave finishing with 12.

Casa Grande spent most of the first three periods trying to overcome an 0-12 start. At the halftime break, Vintage was still seemingly in control with a 43-34 lead.

A flurry of 3-pointers, two by Nave and another by Noah Bailey, turned the game around at the outset of the second half. When Taju Grant bounced in a 3-pointer to beat the third-period buzzer, the Gauchos had their first lead of the game at 57-55.

From there, it was a boat race to the finish, with Siebels leading the Gauchos (eight points in the final period) and Polk (seven in the period) pacing the Crushers.

It all came down to that one long, long minute.

Napa rules inside

Earlier in the week, while rain beat down outside, VVAL-unbeaten Napa shined inside, controlling the rim at both ends of the court.

Although the game was competitive all the way in Casa’s Coach Ed Iacopi Gym, the Gauchos led only once (at 3-2). Most of the game, Napa’s Grizzlies worked inside for easy hoops while forcing the Gauchos to bomb from the perimeter.

In most games, distance is not a factor for the Gauchos, who have made a living from beyond the arc. But in this one, the touch was missing in the first half when the Gauchos connected on only one 3-pointer.

Napa did most of its offensive work around the hoop, putting four players in double-digit scoring, led by Zach Swim, who scored 21 points, almost all coming from within touching distance of the rim or at the charity stripe.

Napa built its lead in the first half, on top by as much as 10 most of the first two periods, only to see the advantage shrink to five after the intermission, primarily the result of determined play from Casa’s Bailey, who had 12 of his team’s 25 points in the first two periods.

With Swim working inside and Stephen Blume and Bayden Greenlee popping in opportune treys, Napa built its lead to as much as 16 at one point in the fourth quarter.

Then came Siebels. The senior was forced to spend hurting minutes benched by foul problems in the first half, but he owned the final three minutes of the game. Hitting three treys in those last minutes, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter and finishing with 24 for the game, Siebels gave the Grizzlies some anxious moments as the clock blinked down.

However, his hot hand came too late to bring the Gauchos on a par with the Grizzlies, whose next big chore was how to find their way home through flooded roadways.

Bailey finished with 15 points for the Gauchos.

There was a major discrepancy at the foul line, where Napa was offered 20 opportunities and cashed in on 13, while Casa Grande had only seven free shots and hit four.

The result of the two losses left Casa Grande at 10-10 on the season and 3-4 in VVAL play going into a game Thursday at home against American Canyon.

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